Palestinian leader says White House peace efforts ‘in chaos’

Abbas tells Israeli MKs that he has met with Trump officials 20 times but they aren’t conveying messages to Netanyahu; accuses Israel of blocking resumption of security ties

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon (2nd R) at the presidential residence in Ramallah, West Bank, on August 20, 2017. (Osama Falah / Wafa)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon (2nd R) at the presidential residence in Ramallah, West Bank, on August 20, 2017. (Osama Falah / Wafa)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that the entire administration of US President Donald Trump is in “chaos,” and indicated that the White House disarray was affecting peace efforts.

“I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos,” Abbas told a delegation of dovish Israeli lawmakers visiting Ramallah.

Abbas told parliamentarians from the Meretz party that he had met with US officials more than 20 times since Trump’s election in November 2016, yet still had little idea what their plans for peace negotiations were.

“Each time they reiterate their commitment to a two-state solution and the stop to settlement building,” he said, according to Hebrew media reports. “I urge them to tell Netanyahu that, but they refrain.”

He added that it is impossible to know what Trump and his team are planning.

The comments came as Trump is set to send three top aides to the region this week in an effort to kickstart peace efforts.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell will all head to the Middle East, according to the White House, and will meet with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Trump has asked his delegation to focus the talks on this trip around several broad themes, inclusive finding “a path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, combating extremism [and dealing with] the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there,” according to a senior White House official.

While Ramallah has officially welcomed US peace efforts, officials have begun to grumble about what they see as a lack of commitment to a two-state solution or finding a way forward, as well as a bias toward Israel’s positions.

Abbas also said Sunday that Israel was preventing the resumption of security cooperation with his government, considered a key plank of ties between Ramallah and Jerusalem, which have recently withered over tensions surrounding the Temple Mount.

“We recently contacted them to try to resume some kind of cooperation, but they did not respond, which is preventing progress in our relations,” Abbas said.

Israeli officials quoted by Channel 2 news said later Sunday that this was not the case.

The PA had cut parts of the security cooperation with Israel in mid July after Israel decided to install new security measures at the Temple Mount following a terror attack there. Palestinians and others saw the metal detectors, cameras and other methods as a breach of the sensitive status quo governing the site, supporting a boycott of the Mount and leading to near daily violence.

Abbas said that Ramallah had informed the US of the situation regarding the security cooperation, which is seen as vital for both Israel to keep a thumb on terror in the West Bank, and for Abbas’s Fatah party to keep the rival Hamas group from growing too strong.

Meretz head Zehava Galon told Abbas she disapproved of steps taken by the Palestinian leader to isolate the Gaza Strip as a means of pressuring Hamas, the de facto ruler of the enclave.

Abbas had stopped paying for Israeli electricity provided to the Strip and had also reportedly kept medical supplies from reaching there.

“I do not support Hamas or the government it established, but the decision to punish the people of Gaza by cutting off electricity is wrong and illegitimate,” Galon told Abbas.

She stressed her party’s commitment to a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders and an end to Israel’s hold on the West Bank.

“We are here today because we believe in a moderate Palestinian leadership,” Galon told the Palestinian Authority president. “There is no difference between our ideas as partners for peace.”

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